Bellamy saw early signs of Smith's rep fatigue
Craig Bellamy knew Cameron Smith was struggling with representative footy last year.
And it was a phone call between the Melbourne coach and his captain before the round-13 clash against the Knights that reinforced it.
"He rang me up and said, 'Mate, I'm not going to be able to play tomorrow'," Bellamy said.
"Which straight away, I said 'no worries', because you trust his judgement without any sort of doubt.
"The mentality before was I'd ring him up (after an Origin game), and he'd say, 'I'm really tired, but give me until tomorrow'. It was always just waiting and see if I'll be OK. That was the worst case. Usually it was 'I'll be right'.
"He was down a bit, mentally. That was after the first one when they got beaten. I realised then we'd have to look after him more during Origin. But I didn't have an inkling that he'd give up Origin."
Slade Griffin played against Newcastle that night, and Smith carried on juggling Origin and Test commitments for the rest of the year.
While Smith announced on Tuesday his representative days are over, Bellamy knows his skipper still has a strong desire to continue playing in the Telstra Premiership. He's usually the last to leave training and enjoys being out on the park.
"I can't see why the way he's going at the moment, and if he's still mentally keen to still do the work he'll need to do to play at that level, I can't see why he can't go on for another two or three years.
"It's that mental attitude will be the thing for him. You think at some stage he'll get tired of doing those little things away from training that he has to do. He's usually the last guy to leave training. He's still got that hunger and belief he can still get better."
The skipper's ban for a dangerous contact charge on Titans forward Kevin Proctor gives an opportunity for Brandon Smith to start only his second NRL game against Manly on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
And the 21-year-old is raring to go, judging by his energetic approach to training. It's also a look into the younger Smith's credentials as a long-term successor at hooker.
"You've got to try and pull him back a bit," Bellamy joked.
"He gets a bit excited, as you can see by the way he goes on the field. He's a bull in a gate. He'll need a little bit of thought into his game this week playing dummy half.
"We're really glad for him. He won't die wondering; we know that."